head to tail stage experiences

April 21, 2009 on 12:26 am | In Blog, Offal | Comments
photo ourtesy of michael harlan turkell

photo courtesy of Michael Harlan Turkell

As part of the deal, the stages for head to tail had to write their experiences to share with the world. Here is Derek’s letter about his experience. Please mind that he is a Canadian ginger with a twisted sense of humor. But on a serious note it was a pleasure to have Derek with us an he has already asked to come back for next year, he will be in charge of next years stages.
Head to Tail…a recap

As the taxi took a left onto Church Street my first glimpse of Incanto was
a bright eyed, handsome Irish lad by the name of John Relihan. He didn’t
speak much English, but pointed to my luggage, then to the front door…I
assumed he wanted to carry my bags..I let him. A gesture I found quite
warming. After getting settled, I met Omar and the kitchen crew then got
settled into cleaning and blanching 60lbs of veal testicles, 80 lbs of goose
intestines and a couple of cases of fava beans. The latter being a welcoming
sight as I was coming from Montreal and there was still snow on the ground.
Near the end of service Chris invited us to sit at the bar and have dinner,
I had the fried testa….delicious.
The next couple of days were a blur of cleaning, blanching, peeling and
poaching. Brains, kidneys, heart, more balls, tripe, caul fat and liver.
Omar spent most of his time “relaxing” in the corner with 80 lbs of
spleen. By relaxing, I mean purging, blanching, pressing and peeling…a
daunting task that took up the better part of a 15 hour day. The whole time
we were entertained by the witty banter of the Incanto kitchen. A handsome
moustachioed cook who goes by the name Manny (who on a side note came to SF
to find himself and judging by the goatee succeeded) took us out for a
couple of beers and beef tongue tacos…delicious.
Things were coming together for the Incanto team and by the time Monday,
the first night of head to tail rolled around everyone was ready. I worked
the brain and testicle station, and it only seemed fitting that Omar work on
the spleens. The service was amazing and the food was incredible. Chris was
really happy and John Relihan said something.
Tuesday the restaurant was closed and I went to the French Laundry!
Wednesday was the big night. Forty more reservations and Mr. No
Reservations himself in attendance. Once again the service was flawless,
Chris runs a tight ship and his team really works great together. The
kitchen philosophy is inspiring and I wish more restaurants would take an
approach like this. The end of the night was here and so was our last day at
Incanto, Chris sat us down and we got the entire menu in 30 minutes. I had
my first offal coma. We had some celebratory drinks and then it was time to
head back to Montreal. Manny gave me a rather awkward hug and John Relihan
shed a single tear.
A big thank you to Chris and the entire Incanto team for sharing this
experience with me. It was truly memorable, hopefully we will see some of
you guys up here at my place some day.
Best regards, Derek Dammann


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  1. Damn those spleens!

    Comment by Omar — April 21, 2009 #

  2. Next year I must be there instead of here.
    Either that or the French Laundry.
    That Derek is a funny guy.

    Comment by Neal L. — April 21, 2009 #

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